Original Article

Interobserver size measurement variability in part-solid lung adenocarcinoma using pre-operative computed tomography

Kazutoshi Hamanaka, Hiroki Takayama, Tsutomu Koyama, Shunichiro Matsuoka, Tetsu Takeda, Hiroyuki Agatsuma, Kyoko Yamada, Akira Hyogotani, Satoshi Kawakami, Ken-ichi Ito


Background: In the current lung cancer tumor-node-metastasis classification, solid tumor size is used for tumor diameter measurement as the dense component. However, measuring solid tumor size is sometimes difficult and inter-observer variability may increase, particularly in part-solid nodules with ground-glass opacity (GGO). This study aimed to investigate inter-observer size measurement variability in lung adenocarcinoma.
Methods: Of 47 patients with part-solid lung adenocarcinoma who had undergone surgery at our department from January to December 2016, five surgeons and one radiologist undertook unidimensional solid and total size tumor measurements using pre-operative axial computed tomography images, and we assessed inter-observer size measurement variability. Variability was then subclassified into five groups, according to computer tomography-identified tumor morphological characteristics, namely: (I) minimally invasive; (II) peribronchovascular; (III) spiculation/atelectasis; (IV) adjacent to cystic lesion, and; (V) diffuse consolidation and GGO.
Results: The mean inter-observer variability was 9.7 mm (solid size) and 7.7 mm (total size). Analysis of the maximum and minimum measurement size values for each patient undertaken showed that the most experienced surgeon and the radiologist measured the minimum size more frequently. To correct for differences in mean tumor diameter in each group, a comparison was made using a coefficient of variation (CV) calculated as the ratio of the standard deviation to the mean. Group I characteristics showed the largest coefficient value for variation in solid size measurement.
Conclusions: Inter-observer measurement variability for solid size was larger than for total size in lung adenocarcinoma. Large variability in group I indicated the difficulty of size measurement for low-grade malignant potential nodules such as adenocarcinoma in situ, minimally invasive adenocarcinoma, and early-stage invasive adenocarcinoma. The possibility of unavoidable size measurement variability should be recognized when deciding on surgical procedures for these diseases.

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